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By J.J. Huggins
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METHUEN - Police Officer Ron Valliere says Sgt. Larry Phillips intentionally hit him from behind and slammed his head onto the floor during a training exercise last month.
Valliere, in a Police Department memorandum obtained by The Eagle-Tribune, explained that he participated in a training session at Methuen High School on Aug. 19.
Police simulated a school shooting, and Valliere's job was to pretend to be the suspect. During a portion of the seminar where "all role players were advised not to show any signs of aggression," Phillips hit and injured Valliere so badly that he had to go to the hospital later that day, the memo says.
"I feel that this action by Sgt. Phillips was excessive and a blatant personal attack on me with the intent to cause me harm and intimidation," Valliere wrote.
Phillips declined to comment for this story, and Valliere has been out of work on injured-in-the-line-of-duty status since the day of the incident and could not be reached for comment.
In the memo, Valliere said his role was to sit on a teacher's desk with a handgun protruding from his pocket, and he was supposed to stand with his hands in the air as police entered the room.
Officer Kevin Dzioba walked in first, and Valliere stood and held up his hands. Dzioba instructed Valliere to put his hands on his head and kneel.
"While attempting to go to my knees, I heard from behind me someone running toward me at a full sprint," Valliere wrote.
Valliere was struck from behind and fell to the floor and instinctively tried to put his hands in front of him to brace himself.
"I hit the floor hard and then felt this person kneel into my back, he slammed my head onto the floor and ripped my hands out from beneath my face while twisting my arms with extreme force, causing me excruciating pain as I was yelling, 'It's just a (expletive) training scenario,'" Valliere wrote.
Lt. Frank Korn blew an air horn to stop the seminar, and Valliere saw that Phillips was the person who knocked him down.
"At the sound of the horn, he just simply got up and walked out of the room with no regard for what had just taken place and did not participate in the debriefing," Valliere wrote.
Valliere had pain in his back, neck, left arm and both shoulders, and he ended up going to Caritas Holy Family Hospital that night to get checked out, his memo says.
Chief Katherine Lavigne said she does not know when Valliere will return to work. Police are reviewing the incident, but Lavigne wouldn't comment further. The chief said she didn't know why Valliere would feel that Phillips intentionally hurt him.
"I don't know what their relationship was before that occurred, whether or not there was any personal problems. I'm not aware of anything," she said.
Phillips has not been disciplined, and he remains on the job, Lavigne said.
EAGLE TRIBUNE
 

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METHUEN — A private detective determined police Sgt. Larry Phillips did nothing wrong at a training exercise last month during which Officer Ron Valliere said Phillips intentionally hit him from behind and slammed his head onto the floor.
The Police Department brought in private detective Michael Healy to investigate the Aug. 19 incident at Methuen High School, during which police simulated a school shooting.
Valliere's job was to pretend to be a gunman, and he wrote a memorandum saying the sergeant's actions were "excessive and a blatant personal attack on me with the intent to cause me harm and intimidation."
After receiving Healy's report, police Chief Katherine Lavigne notified Phillips in writing that he has been cleared of any wrongdoing.
Healy is listed as an employee of Municipal Resources Inc., a company that former Methuen police Chief Bruce MacDougall works for. His 13-page report, dated Tuesday, was given to Lavigne.
"I do not see any fault in his actions," the Shrewsbury-based investigator wrote, referring to Phillips.
Valliere had pain in his back, neck, left arm and both shoulders, and he ended up going to Caritas Holy Family Hospital that night to be checked out, his memo said.
The officer remains out of work on injured-in-the-line-of-duty status, and there is no indication of when he'll return, Lavigne said. Neither Valliere nor Phillips could be reached for comment.
Healy interviewed Valliere, Phillips and the other nine officers at the training. Healy said that based on his interviews, it is "obvious both Phillips and Valliere have a dislike and mistrust of each other," but the report did not go into specifics.
Phillips told Healy that he didn't know the person he pinned was Valliere. The officers wore helmets and Valliere faced the other direction, so Phillips couldn't see Valliere's face.
Phillips "contends he had no intention to cause harm" to Valliere. He said he entered the room with three other officers during the exercise and saw Valliere being ordered to kneel. Phillips approached Valliere and used his left hand to push him down, and then brought Valliere's hands back to handcuff him, the report said.
"Sgt. Phillips said the officers were supposed to react to each event as though it was a real shooting situation in a school setting," Healy wrote.
Valliere's memo said that while he went to his knees, he heard somebody behind him running at "full sprint."
"I hit the floor hard and then felt this person kneel into my back, he slammed my head onto the floor and ripped my hands out from beneath my face while twisting my arms with extreme force, causing me excruciating pain as I was yelling, 'It's just a (expletive) training scenario,'" Valliere wrote.
Valliere's memo said "all role players were advised not to show any signs of aggression." However, officers quoted in Healy's report said they were not ordered to refrain from using force.
Officers gave similar accounts of the incident, but they had different perceptions, Healy determined. Some officers believed Phillips was excessive, while others thought what he did was appropriate.
Officer Kevin Dzioba, who commanded Valliere to put his hands on his head before Phillips pinned him, said Phillips' "take down" was, "quick and stealth, and that's how we're trained."
"If you don't want to get hurt, go bag groceries," Dzioba told Healy.
Dzioba said the takedown "was appropriate, but maybe not the best way."
After Phillips struck Valliere, Lt. Frank Korn told Phillips, "We don't need 300-pound tackles."
Valliere sought a criminal complaint against Phillips in Lawrence District Court, but a complaint was never issued.
"I found it displeasing that a police officer would take it upon himself to go to the local district court to seek a criminal complaint against a fellow officer with what I believe is flimsy evidentiary documentation," Healy wrote.
Healy said the dispute could have been addressed internally.
Some officers said Valliere appeared hurt, while others said he showed no signs of injury. Korn said Valliere stood up right away, "but was twisting from side to side and circling his arms as if to loosen up."
"Valliere did not show any signs of being hurt and in my experience with sports or on-the-job injuries, usually there are signs of discomfort or pain, especially injuries such as torn rotator cuffs," Lt. Michael Wnek told Healy. "I saw him carrying a box downstairs and outside after the training day was over."
EAGLE TRIBUNE
 
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